Pankaj Sharma/ Zee Research Group
In his latest blog entry ‘BJP: A Hub of Hope’, LK Advani targeted party president Nitin Gadkari for the party’s failure to provide an alternative to the UPA. While the senior BJP leader’s frontal attack will further create fissures within the party, the use of the blog space to convey his displeasure highlights our politicians’ increasing dependence on social media to strike a chord with young voters.
Not surprisingly, Advani’s hard-hitting stance has attracted netizens. His personal blog (blog.lkadvani.in) is drawing huge traffic with around 300 percent increase in last one month. In fact, the octogenarian leader was among the first few leaders of the country to have forayed into the social media space. In run up to 2009 General election of 2009, Advani launched his blog in January. As per Alexa, Advani’s website has a ranking of around 26 thousand in India and is being visited more frequently by males who are in the age range of 45-54.
However, one question is on everyone’s mind - that instead of expressing their views in rallies, why are Indian ‘netas’ turning to online tools to communicate? Is this Obama’s effect?
President of the United States, Barack Obama was perhaps the first global leader who tapped into social networking to garner mass support. Obama may have been a role model for Indian leaders who have started adopting online techniques to reach their voters. Recently, social media also played a key role in mobilising citizens in Arab countries including Tunisia, Syria and Libya during their protest.
The fast growing internet users might also force politicians to use web as a medium for communication. By 01 January 2012, India had registered 121 million internet users with a penetration rate of 10 percent. India is also projected to touch 2.2 billion internet users by 2013, third highest user base after China and US.
However, enrollment of more young voters could be the main target for political parties. Election Commission of India (ECI) as on 01 January 2012, reported registration of 3.83 crore new voters out of which 1.11 crore were in the age group of 18-27.
India is expected to have maximum Facebook users than any other country by 2015. Currently, India is close to 4 crore 63 lakh Facebook users, according to Socialbakers, a social media analytics firm in London. This makes India the third-biggest Facebook market, behind the US, now at 15 crore 68 lakh users, and Brazil, with 4 crore 80 lakh users.
However, it’s not only Advani but other political leaders who are using social networking platform to target their catchment’s area.
Many senior political leaders including Shashi Tharoor, Narendra Modi, Sushma Swaraj, Omar Abdullah, Rajeev Chandrashekar and Ajay Maken have a huge following of netizens. Former junior minister in Ministry of External Affairs, Shashi Tharoor has a whopping following of more than one million users on Twitter. Narendra Modi, Sushma Swaraj and Omar Abdullah follow Tharoor with more than six lakh, two lakh and one lakh followers respectively on Twitter.
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, entrepreneur and MP Rajeev Chandrashekar and Sports Minister Ajay Maken also have good fan following on social website.